A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast … (Proverbs 12:10)
He was an unwanted gift. My sister gave him to my dad because Dad had recently lost his “Tiny” Chihuahua, literally. He had left her inside his unlocked car and someone took her. Dad grieved the loss of his little companion that went everywhere with him and my sister wanted to ease the pain. However, Dad was not ready for a replacement, but he accepted the “gift” because of the giver. He named him “Regalo,” which means “gift” in Spanish.
Dad had trouble housebreaking Regalo, and once the pup was big enough, he was put outside for good. At the time, Dad pastored a church in Brady, Texas and he lived in the parsonage next to the church building. He strung a wire between the church building and the parsonage and tethered Regalo to the line so that he could run back and forth between the two. He also built a dog house for shelter and basically forgot about the dog. Oh, he fed and watered him and showed him affection whenever he came outside, but other than that, Regalo was pretty much ignored. I do not mean to make it sound as if Dad mistreated Regalo. Dad loved all kinds of animals. Regalo was fed, watered, sheltered, and taken to the veterinarian for all his shots, and while he was tethered, he did have a lot of space to run. The tether kept him safe from getting ran over by a car – Dad did not have a fenced yard. However, anyone who has dogs understands that they are social animals, and they want to be around their packs. This is what Regalo missed.
Regalo was born sometime in June 2009, and my sister gave him to my dad when he was about eight weeks old in August 2009. Dad went to be with the Lord on August 27, 2014, and we held his funeral on September 2, 2014. Afterward, us siblings got together to divide up the “inheritance;” Dad did not leave much behind, but Regalo, now five years old, was one of those. He was flea infested and in bad need of a grooming. June wanted to “rescue” him, but I was not so eager. We already had two other dogs, Nacho and Chico, and I did not think we needed a third. My sister also wanted to take him, but she had no place for him at that time. So, we agreed that we would take Regalo and keep him until my sister found a house where she could keep him.
After several hours of bathing with flea shampoo, Regalo came home with us. On the way home, June carried him in her lap. Poor little guy – I say “little” because he only weighed 10 pounds at that time – was so nervous and scared that he peed on June’s lap. “Great!” I thought, “Now we have to worry about housebreaking him.” Along the way, we made a couple of unscheduled stops so that he could “go,” and he did fine the rest of the way home.
Housebreaking was not that hard for Regalo. He only had a couple of “accidents,” but he quickly learned where to do his business. He even learned how to ask to be let out. During his first week with us, we took him to a “dogapalooza” in our neighborhood for shots and a checkup. There we learned that Regalo had heartworm and treatment would cost between $600 and $800. I called my sister with the news and offered an option. I would pay for the treatments and she could reimburse me, or I would pay for the treatments and keep the dog. There was no hesitation. “You keep him,” was her immediate response. The treatments involved two rounds of injections about a month apart and restricted activity. For Regalo, “restricted activity” seemed to be second nature to him. He was one chilled pup.
With his heartworm treatments completed, Regalo got up to a respectable fighting weight of 20 pounds. I don’t know if it was because of the bout with heartworm, but Regalo was a low-energy dog. He would walk until he found a good place to flop and drop for a nap. It was usually in our path of travel, and our approach did not motivate him to move. He was happy to let us step over him. Sometimes he would park himself right under our feet without our knowledge and get his big “Grinch-feet” stepped on. However, that was one lesson he never learned.
I retired in December 2019. Regalo was now ten years old. He and I grew closer during that time. He would follow me from room to room and whenever I found a good roost, he would flop down beside me. He was content just to be near me. We moved from Garland, Texas to Columbus, Nebraska in April of 2022. Regalo was approaching his 13th birthday. Our new house in Columbus included a basement, something we Texans were not used to. I have a “man cave” down in my basement, and I can spend hours down there. When I would come up, I would find Regalo waiting for me at the top of the stairs. God designed Regalo with stubby legs; getting down the steep stairs scared him, so he was happy to wait for me at the top of the stairs. When I finally figured out what he was doing, I started carrying down his chunky self with me. There he would find a good place to flop and just knowing I was there was all he wanted.
Regalo was unassuming and never demanding. When we would sit for a meal, he would come to the table, but never beg for food, like the other dogs. If we offered, he would take it, but he would never beg. Now at the food dish, that was another thing altogether. He ruled the food dish and he let the other dogs know it. That was the only time he ever expressed any aggression, otherwise, he was very loving to the other dogs – constantly grooming them – and to us. I got lots of kisses from him.
June and I had plans to go down to Texas to take care of some doctors’ visits and other appointments at the end of March. We put Nacho down before we moved to Columbus, so we decided to take Regalo and Chico along with us. However, a couple of weeks before our trip, we noticed Regalo really slowing down, more than usual. He had become incontinent and medications were not helping. We also noticed a couple of episodes of what appeared to be seizures, so we took him off of the meds for incontinence and bought doggie diapers for him. I was really worried about him making the trip. We would be staying with our good friends, Wayne and Linda, who would be keeping our dogs, and I did not want to burden them with Regalo’s geriatric issues.
I remember watching Regalo out in our big backyard. He enjoyed just laying out there and smelling the air. Then we would call him in and he would run to the door with a big smile on his face. He looked like a happy puppy even in his old age. But now, when we put him out to do his business, he did not even have the strength to hike up his leg to pee. He just flopped on his stomach and unloaded his bladder.
Finally, on Saturday, March 25, 2023, I let him out with his diaper. He took a few steps beyond our patio and laid down on the grass. After a while, I called him in and he took just a few steps inside the door and dropped on the floor. He had absolutely no energy. As I looked at him, I prayed, “Lord, please don’t make me put him down. If he needs to go, please just take him.” It was about this time last year that I had to put Nacho down, and even though he was a rather eccentric, weird dog, we loved him and it hurt to put him down. I did not want to go through the same thing with Regalo.
I scratched his head and told him what a good boy he was and went downstairs to finish up whatever it was I was doing – probably writing another blog article. About an hour later, I went back upstairs and Regalo had managed to make it up to the hallway leading to our bedroom although he was facing toward the kitchen. Again, I cradled his head in my hands, scratched his ears, and told him what a good boy he was. I could tell he was not doing well. I returned to my mancave and about an hour later, June came downstairs and said, “Ernie, I think Regalo is gone.” I left what I was doing and went straight to where I had last seen him. I found him motionless facing the direction of our bedroom. There, June kept a doggie bed in her closet and Regalo had claimed it as his personal den. I am sure he was headed for his safe place, but he didn’t make it.
I got down on the floor and put my head on his chest. No heartbeat. No breath. He was gone, just as quietly as was his nature. June got down on the floor with me and we both wept bitterly. Loving him. Stroking him. Wishing that somehow our affection would bring him around, but he was gone. Chico was there too. He was confused. He did not understand our wailing. After much crying, I picked up Regalo and cradled him in my arms holding him close to me, while June called the vet to get advice on what to do. The vet said she was on her way into the office to make rounds on her patients and that we could bring him in and she would take care of the cremation. I drove us to the vet while June held Regalo in her lap one last time. We carried him in to the vet and let her take over from there. That was the last time we would see our sweet boy.
We took our short trip to the Dallas area with our “only child,” Chico. When we returned home, I went to the vet’s office to pick up Regalo’s remains – less than half a pound of ashes in a tightly sealed plastic bag. I wonder what the attendant must have thought when I remarked, “Is that all?” He was all of 20 pounds, fluffy, furry, and full of life, and this was all that remained. When the weather gets nicer, we will scatter his ashes in our big backyard where he loved to lay and sniff the air. And I can still imagine him running toward me when I call, with that big happy smile on his face. Oh! How I miss him!
This is not the first time we’ve gone through this. I remember a little friend we had many years ago. She was one we raised from a pup. She also lived to be 14. We had to put her down, and I remember the tears. As the end of her life neared, I wondered if there was a Doggie Heaven. I don’t know for sure, however, I concluded that it is certainly possible. Animals did not sin and bring the curse of death upon the world. And when God created, death was not part of His “very good” creation. Therefore, it’s very possible that animals do inherit eternal life simply because it was not God’s intention for them to die in the first place. I hope I’m right about that, and when I get to heaven, I hope to see Regalo there and when I call his name, he’ll come running to me with a big smile on his face, and along with him, all the other dogs in my pack. Regalo was a very good boy.